GLOBAL WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS
More than 100 people have died and up to 1 million have fled their homes, with areas of Burma declared disaster zones and India also badly hit on the 2nd. Heavy monsoon rains have continued to lash much of southern Asia, threatening further casualties and more destruction after a week of lethal floods and landslides. In India, the chief minister of West Bengal, in the east of the country, described the situation as beyond control. Local officials said 48 people are thought to have died in the state and hundreds of thousands of villagers have been taken to relief camps. The death toll is thought likely to rise. Another 28 deaths were reported in Rajasthan, western India, where rescue workers evacuated nearly 1,000 people to higher ground. Five people were killed in the eastern state of Odisha. The annual monsoon season in the region runs from June to the end of September but, though a lifeline for farmers, often causes hundreds of deaths as well as severe damage to homes and food crops.
Soudelor intensified rapidly over the western Pacific Ocean after raking through Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth in the Northern Mariana Islands, Sunday night and early Monday (3rd). Super Typhoon Soudelor became the fifth super typhoon of this year Monday after undergoing a replacement of its eyewall, a process which occurs in all intense tropical cyclones. A super typhoon is defined by sustained wind speeds of at least 150 mph. According to Monday's 5 p.m. EDT bulletin from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Soudelor had strengthened into the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (one-minute average) with gusts to 220 mph. Soudelor has maintained its strength and as of 11 p.m. EDT Monday, Soudelor continues to have maximum sustained winds of 180 mph and some additional strengthening is possible. Low wind shear and very warm sea surface temperatures have allowed Soudelor to ramp up quickly; the cyclone was just a minimal typhoon 36 hours earlier.
The remnants of typhoon Goni battered western Japan and southeast Korea with damaging winds and flooding rainfall on Tuesday before spreading rain into North Korea, China and Russia on Wednesday. While flooding is possible, the rainfall is also needed in Vladivostok as the summer months have been abnormally dry this year. Rainfall from June 1 to 25 August was less than 40 percent of normal, with only 121 mm falling in the city. Goni left 21 people dead, mainly due to landslides, in the Philippines, the Associated Press reports. As Goni moved northward and passed through Ishigakijima, Japan, it produced sustained winds of 162 km/h and a gust to 255 km/h. The city endured sustained winds over typhoon force for four straight hours. The winds were strong enough to damage buildings and flip over automobiles.
The number of people killed by typhoon Soudelor in China rose to 17, state media reported on Monday,(7-8th) with five more missing. Three people were killed by a mudslide and one was missing after being swept away by floods in Ningde, in the eastern province of Fujian, the Fujian Daily reported. In neighboring Zhejiang province 14 were killed and four were missing. The official news agency Xinhua quoted local officials as saying that the dead and missing may have been washed away by floods or buried under ruined homes. Billed as the biggest typhoon of the year with winds of up to 230 km/h, Soudelor - named after a Micronesian chief - has since weakened. It made landfall in Fujian on Saturday night after leaving six people dead in Taiwan. The death toll there included twin sisters and their mother, who were all swept out to sea. It also knocked out power to a record four million households on the island. About 379 people were injured by the storm in Taiwan, which saw rivers break their banks under torrential rain and towering waves pound the coastline. The China Meteorological Administration lifted its typhoon warning on Monday as the storm weakened and moved further inland.
Rescue teams worked to reopen roads to remote communities after tropical storm Erika caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 20 people and left more than 50 missing on the Caribbean island. Erika whipped the island for more than five hours on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and intense rain that provoked flooding and landslides. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. In Haiti the storm killed at least one person in a suspected landslide. Four others died when a truck hit a bus during the downpour.
A hurricane with winds of up to 135 km/h has hit the island nation of Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa. The government grounded all flights as heavy rain and winds lashed north-western islands in the archipelago. No hurricane has ever been recorded further east in the tropical Atlantic. Late on Monday Fred weakened to a tropical storm as it moved away from the islands, the US-based National Hurricane Center. It said the last time a hurricane was recorded hitting Cape Verde was 1892, although it cautions that records were less exact before the advent of weather satellites in the mid-1960s.
A heatwave has engulfed much of the Middle East, sending temperatures and humidity soaring throughout the region. The searing heat, ailing infrastructure and power cuts have combined to create a particularly intolerable climate in an area already notorious for its hot summers. In the southern Iraqi city of Basra, temperatures are expected to hover around 51C for most of the week and reach 52C at the weekend. In Iraq, the government ordered a four-day holiday to help people deal with the heatwave, while residents in Lebanon without electricity have taken to sleeping on bare floor tiles to cool themselves amid the electricity cuts, unable to operate their air conditioning. In Beirut, nestled on the Mediterranean coast, temperatures will hover in the 30s, but humidity levels of over 50% and the city's increasingly frequent power cuts have combined to create an oppressive heat that has residents sweltering, just a week after stinking garbage piles spilled over into the city's streets in a crisis that highlighted the government's chronic dysfunction. The Iraqi meteorological agency said temperatures around the country this week would average 48-51C. On Friday, a combination of extreme heat and humidity, made the air in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr feel like 73C although the actual tempreture there was around 46C. The city, which has a population of around 150,000, is situated in Iran's south-western oil-rich province of Khuzestan, close to the Iraqi border.
Another 21 people have died as a result of a heatwave in Egypt, the state news agency has said, raising this week's death toll to more than 60 (12th). The Mena news agency said the latest deaths were from Tuesday, and were mostly of elderly people. It said 581 people were in hospital for heat exhaustion. The Middle East has been in a heatwave since late July. Egyptian summers are usually hot, but this week temperatures soared to 46C (114F) in the south. At least 40 people died on Sunday and Monday, including detainees and patients in a psychiatric hospital, according to officials.
There are fears in California's wine industry over the possible impact of raging wildfires and whether they could damage this year's grape yield, potentially affecting the state's multibillion dollar business. While safety for residents and containment of the fires is the clear priority for officials, some in the industry also fear the flames may harm what is a key business sector. Concern in Napa is focused on how the grapes interact with the billows of smoke from the massive Rocky fire in neighboring Lake County.
Wildfires have forced more than 1,400 people to leave their homes in western Spain as dry, hot conditions spark warnings in other European countries. Towns and campsites have been evacuated as planes and helicopters help to tackle the blaze in Spain's Sierra de Gata mountain area. Nearly 80% of neighboring Portugal is experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions, experts say. In Germany, Kitzingen soared to 40.3C, equaling the national record only set a month before. The current record was measured on 5 July in the same town in Bavaria. Some 330 firefighters and other emergency crew members were deployed as fires, fanned by strong winds, threatened homes in Spain's Extremadura region in the early hours of Friday, according to reports. The blaze has burned more than 5,000 hectares (12,400 acres), local police said. More fires destroyed about 3,000 hectares of forest and scrubland near the towns of Lorca and Cieza, near Murcia, in the south-east of the country. Exceptionally dry conditions, rising temperatures and moderate winds have also increased the risk of forest fires in Portugal, officials there said. The Portuguese Weather and Sea Institute said in a monthly report published on Thursday that average rainfall in July was only 3.5 mm. The usual amount for July is almost 14 mm. Warnings are also in place for extreme heat in eastern France.
A blistering heatwave in Japan reached another milestone on the 9th as Tokyo suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day above the "extreme heat" threshold of 35° C, reaching 37.7 °C; the previous record sequence (back to 1875) was just four days. The death toll from Japan's ongoing heatwave reached 55, with more than 11,000 people hospitalized.
Wednesday marked the ninth consecutive day of Warsaw recording a high of 32.2 C or higher, a stretch of intense heat the city has not dealt with since the 1994 heawave that spanned late July to the start of August. Amid this current heat wave, Warsaw set a new all-time August high temperature record last Saturday when the temperature peaked at 36.6. The previous record was 36.4C. Much of Eastern Europe is suffering from a rainfall shortage this year, which has become worse over the summer. Since 1 June, Warsaw has received less than half of the normal (172 mm) rainfall. A total of 47 mm of rain has fallen in Belgrade during the same time, which is less than 30 percent of normal.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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